Cambridge Library Collection - Linguistics: Australian Aborigines: The Languages and Customs of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia
James Dawson first published Australian Aborigines in 1881, after deciding that his careful description of the tribes, languages, customs, and characteristics of the indigenous peoples of the western district of Victoria was too bulky for its originally intended publication in a newspaper. Essentially a field-inspired anthropological account of the dwindling Aboriginal population, written before the emergence of anthropology as a formal discipline, Dawson's book draws on his daughter's ability to speak the local languages and attempts a balanced description of a culture he considered ill-used and under-appreciated by white settlers. Minute details about clothing, tools, settlement and beliefs combine to depict a complex society that possessed highly ritualised customs deserving of respect. Dawson also included an extensive vocabulary of words in three indigenous languages that he hoped would facilitate further cross-cultural understanding. His work provides valuable source material for modern researchers in anthropology and linguistics.